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Photo Courtesy of Ashley Hylbert

Kelly Ford: Country Music’s Queen of Broadcasting

People

As one of the most well-known voices on country music radio today, Kelly Ford has been entertaining listeners for years with her humor and wit.


With stints in her hometown of Louisville, then in Denver and New York City, she planted roots almost a year ago in Nashville, aka Music City, USA, where she's been waking up fans alongside her male co-hosts Ty Bentli and country music artist Chuck Wicks with their nationally syndicated morning show, Ty, Kelly and Chuck on Nash 94.7 FM.

Despite the fact the country music industry has been portrayed as mostly male-dominated, that hasn't stopped Ford from moving forward and continuing the conversation. She's interviewed some of the biggest names in the business and was part of the team that brought the genre back to New York City which had been missing a country radio station for so long.

“What's awesome about New York listeners is they are choosing to listen to country and in many cases defending it while doing so with the passion of a New Yorker," says Ford. “Even a country artist will tell you that there is nothing like the fans there, they are off the hook."

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Hylbert

And while this Southern girl might still be able to walk into a few places unrecognized, once she starts talking her distinctive voice is a clear giveaway to listen up. She's not only living out her dream, she's paving the way for other young women to follow.

SWAAY sat down with the high-profile Ford to talk all things country, including the emergence of women in the industry, how social media has changed the game, along with some favorite spots in her colorful city.

As a woman in this business do you think it's harder to make a name for yourself as a radio DJ?

I have never been one to dwell on it, I've just forged ahead. Clearly, the playing field is not equal and has largely been a male-dominated industry for a while but I believe that's slowly changing. I think in a genre like this, it's reflecting society, and the roles of men and women are changing. My husband and I both have big jobs but he never thought his dream was more important than mine; we just figured things out as we went along.

Forbes magazine published an article in regards to the gender gap; when looking at the genre are there more female powerhouses taking over country in 2017?

It's a continuous battle but I do believe it's changing. Like everything else you have to get out there and the advice I give all young woman, including my daughter, is to get out there and prove yourself. If you dwell on it, not much is going to change.

Miranda [Lambert] was in the studio recently and is probably the most recent person to bring up the ongoing efforts to make it more equitable [for women] and not fall into the notion that women want to hear a man, not a woman. She said on air, “You bet it's sexist" but the more people who step up and say that's not the way they want it the more it will change.

Miranda Lambert with Kelly Ford

Do you foresee a change in the near future?

I am extremely hopeful for this generation coming up; I see it in my daughter and my sons who are in college. There is a self-confidence and a self-awareness that I don't think I had when I was their age. Maybe my efforts are paying off even though I didn't know I was carrying the banner. I am a big believer that you can't dwell on what's wrong but focus on what's right; it's hard to deny success.

I want to help further young women any way I can. I grew up with sisters, went to an all-girls Catholic school and appreciate all that women have done in my life. Without those role models, I wouldn't have been able to become the person who just went for it. I never thought I couldn't do something because I was a woman.

This past summer you won a Gracie Award for Best Co-Host. What did winning that award mean to you?
I am so grateful to have been able to reinvent myself after being in one market for so long; it goes to show you can do anything you want. For me, that win was everything and to be with a [male] team that I adore and encourages collaboration and isn't afraid to let me shine is a great demonstration of teamwork. And to be recognized separately for that part means everything. There is nothing more fulfilling than to have a group of women say hey, we are with you and we support you. It's a big part of what motivates me.
This wasn't your first award; what's it like to be recognized for the job you love doing?

It's a great feeling and I'm proud of it but more so as a woman, I hope it inspires others. But you have to keep it in check because if you believe all the good press you'll have to believe all the bad. I keep it in check but it's super-cool.

You've said social media has changed your life as a radio personality; in what way has that been true?

Social media adds a layer to you as a person and I think you can get a good sense of someone based on what they choose to post as well as what they chose not to. It's a connection that I can't necessarily add on the air because of time restraints. I am a freakish extrovert so for me to be able to connect is awesome. I didn't love the old school way where people just listen to the announcer; my favorite thing is interacting with others.

Do you feel social media is a game changer when it comes to advancing your career?

Yes most definitely. You're building your brand and the more I increase my brand and the trust with the people who listen to me, hopefully, I'll be creating a long time connection.

Nashville is ranked one of the top destinations to travel right now. What are you enjoying most about the city?

It's accessible yet not overwhelming. Broadway is only a few blocks long and you can find all you need in one place. There's live music in every bar and you never know who might show up. Here, everyone is a songwriter and it's a place that appeals to everyone who has a dream. And it's not just country music, it's become music city with a cool vibe. It's just enough cosmopolitan to make it sophisticated but enough homegrown to make you feel like you're visiting family and friends.

When looking to unwind where do you go?
The woods here are spectacular and there are some great places to go hiking such as Lake Radnor and Percy Warner Park. I love rooftop bars; there's one that recently opened at the Thompson Hotel. When I'm missing New York it makes me feel cosmopolitan and chic. I love going to Cochon Butcher in Germantown [one of the city's historic neighborhoods.] And I love a good flea market. Once a month there is an amazing one at the Nashville fairgrounds where you can not only discover great finds but meet the most wonderful people with such great stories.
Finish this sentence, I am passionate about…

Anything that moves the needle!

3 min read
Health

4 Tips to Not Lose Friendships Over Your Mental Health

Life can be messy, and you might be wondering if you should involve your friends with your mental health ups-and-downs. You might be afraid because your friends are undereducated and misinformed about people living with mental health issues. They might be in the dark.

You've heard them whisper, "She's off her meds." As if a pill will solve everything when it is more complicated than that to be truly healthy. Your friends might have said that if you took better care of yourself, you wouldn't have problems. They might have insinuated that your issues are a wet blanket.

It's time to address your mental health without losing friendships.

Mental health is a chronic condition not unlike diabetes or hundreds of other medical conditions. You can ask for support beyond your medication and attending regular therapy appointments.

We are all in need of a friend's help from time to time. Here are four tips when you're feeling low, out of sorts, or on the edge:

1. Be Selective

You're looking for your friends' support and you're looking to be understood. You're not looking for hundreds of people to validate your latest post, you are looking for one brave friend who can be steady for you during a storm. Be aware that people might not see your mental health challenges through the same lens as you do. They haven't lived it.

The friend who you turn to for support might not be your best friend, instead they might be the best person during difficult times. Like a friend of mine called the 'fixer', he had been groomed to be the number-one emergency contact since he was a kid. He was a better guy, a more likable guy during tragedies.

All of your friends might show up when you call them on the first day of a crisis, but there's a chance they might have left the building before all the dust settles. An emotional crisis can last months not just a few hours and very few friends are built to stand-by you for a long time. Involving the right person is key.

2. Be a Planner

Once you've selected the most compassionate, dependable friend to be your contact and possibly help you out during an emergency, you'll want to plan.

Tell them about your medical history and how you manage your condition currently. Share the name and phone number of your health care professional that you see for therapy and medication and give an accurate list of any medicines that you take.

Listen to their concerns and answers their questions. Holding back information can affect whether your friend can truly help you and whether or not they feel a part of your team.

3. Be Committed

Telling a friend about your challenges does not mean that you've hired a personal garbage collector — person to pick-up and take out your trash. Instead, once you've involved a friend in your quest for stability, you will be held accountable to follow the plan that your health care provider and your friends and family outlined.

You should be honest when you fall short of following the plan whether it be not taking your medication or not seeing your therapist or avoiding stress.

4. Be Charlie Brown

Acknowledge that you, too, will be there for your friend.

Thank your friend in writing and out loud after they have helped you get your life back on track. Promise them that you will be there when they need you. You have the unique experience of understanding how people need help from friends and you will be the best helper to your friend.

The friend who helped you through this storm will likely face some kind of challenges in the coming days. Demonstrating that you will be there for your friend is the best way to ensure that they will show up for you.

If you are feeling alone and thinking about harming yourself, please call this hotline: 1-800-950-NAMI or visit NAMI's website.

You are not alone.